I’m on the phone checking a chain’s strength with a distant agent. It’s a necessary task, if you want to advise your client accurately. But invariably the sort of vapid tool I have on the other end of the line only serves to confirm why the public dislike and distrust us. It’s why outside of a drink with the team on a Friday I rarely mix socially with other practitioners.
Only this guy sounds like a kindred spirit, I can tell by his voice and comments that he’s experienced, and somehow over the copper cables we forge a brief, passing connection.‘How is it with you then?’ I eventually ask, chain details – names, agents involved, status of surveys’, mortgage offers’ and proposed completion dates logged - ‘Grim as everyone else is saying?’
Now at this juncture in the past, especially with the majority of odious operators, I’d expect a blizzard of bullshit. Bloated boasts about how many deals they’d booked that week, how many policies the advisor had written, claims that they were having it away like never before.
But this guy is different.‘Crap.’ He announces succinctly, before adding even more perceptively. ‘But then it was always going to happen.’ I agree tentatively, still not wishing to over-expose myself to someone I know only by a fleeting meshing of circumstance. And we go on to reminisce about the early nineties and the last big correction.
‘I listed this one bed flat yesterday.’ Confides the man wearily as I make the appropriated appreciative noises, unless it’s the sight of S my negotiator jogging past my window to grab a rarely ringing phone. ‘And the bloke was castigating me because it was worth £180,000 six months ago and now I wanted it on at £150 k.’‘I know what you mean.’ I tell him, trying to get my focus back.‘Truth is,’ says the far off colleague, hesitating briefly. ‘Truth is, it really ought to be £90,000 to make any sense.’
And now I wince and take a sharp intake of breath, and not because S is now skipping to the office diary distractingly.‘First time buyers round here earn early twenties.’ Continues the sage, who is beginning to make me seem upbeat. ‘So, ten percent deposit if they can save it and £81k on the drip. That’s more than enough when you think about it sensibly.
’‘You alright?’ Trills S as she taps at my door with a cup of tea in hand, ten minutes later. ‘Only you look a bit down.’ And I outline my last call, sanitised a little in order not to frighten her.‘Aw that’s nonsense,’ she pronounces naively, ‘the government would never let that happen.’ And she hesitates before adding in a slightly quavering falsetto. ‘Would they?
’‘I think that might be a little full.’ I venture gingerly, late afternoon. I’m standing on another deathly quiet construction site next to a small time developer. The footings for a brace of houses are poured and a solitary blue portable loo sits forlornly to one side, up against a pile of breezeblocks.‘Shit, that’s the minimum I need to make the figures stack up.’ Announces the man, head shaking in disbelief. ‘The bank will be all over me like a rash if I don’t knock these out in the next nine months.
’And gently I supply him with the comparable sales I’ve brought to show him. And even theses prices – historical ones – are unlikely to be achieved again in a hurry.‘I’ve signed personal guarantees you know.’ He tells me, as If I’ve not come across businessmen whose homes are about to be forfeited before. Fleetingly I wonder about asking his personal rather than business address, as if it’s in my patch there’s a better than even chance we’ll get the repossession next year.‘I’ve got to finish it unless you can find me someone who’ll buy it like this.’ He sweeps a hand towards the sad little site, which should really have remained someone’s garden. We both already know the answer, so he concludes grimly.‘Feels like I’m building my own bloody gallows.’I know how he feels. I wonder if you hear the trap door opening?
Posted by secret agent at 10:00 PM 17 comments Friday, February 06, 2009Medicine Man - Friday